Personal referrals are a cornerstone of hiring for today’s businesses. According to LinkedIn, 85% of new jobs are given to someone within a referral network. The more senior the role, the more likely it is to come from a referral.
There are obvious benefits to businesses from hiring based on referrals. Candidates come pre-screened and recommended by current employees, contractors, or other trusted sources. This means companies spend less time looking for the right person to fill a role, and they are less likely to hire someone who just isn’t a good fit.
However, individuals also benefit from making referrals – and it’s not just the financial rewards that come with referring an individual who is ultimately hired for an open position. There are numerous personal and professional benefits to building a referral network and making connections.
This post outlines some of the advantages to being a “referrer” and offers some advice for consultants looking to expand their referral networks.
7 Reasons to Build a Referral Network
Gain access to business opportunities. The most obvious benefit of building a referral network is learning about potential opportunities. It’s not just new jobs, either – it could be joint ventures, partnerships, or speaking or writing opportunities.
Get career advice and support. A wide network can offer valuable and diverse perspective when you need advice about making a career move, face a challenging business decision, or simply want to ask your peers a question.
Become a trusted resource. Likewise, offering relevant advice when people in your network have questions or need help demonstrates that you have valuable expertise to share.
Raise your visibility and influence. When you are regarded as a trusted source of information, you become known as a knowledgeable and supportive member of your profession. Increased visibility among your peers also helps you stand out to recruiters when they have roles to fill.
Build personal confidence. Regularly connecting with others in person or online, especially people you don’t already know, helps to boost your confidence, build social skills, and learn from others.
Develop long-lasting relationships. The people in your referral network are likely to have similar career goals and think the same way you do. Don’t be surprised if some of your connections become personal friends.
Help others grow and thrive. Providing career advice, referring members of your network for work, or simply answering a question can bring you a sense of satisfaction in finding a way to help others.
7 Tips For Building a Referral Network
Look for connections to connections. One challenge in building a referral network is finding individuals with expertise outside your core skill set. A tip from Indeed is to look for connections to people you already know. If you’re new to marketing, for example, you can see who’s connected to the marketing team at your current company.
Make connections to connections. Have you ever met someone and immediately thought, “You remind me of a friend?” For consultant and former CIO John T. Mason, the same can be said of professional connections. If you meet a colleague or peer who has something in common with someone else you know, take the time to make an introduction.
Make clear introductions. If you’re looking to connect with someone, leadership expert Meridith Elliott Powell recommends a “value-add” introduction that focuses on what they do, not what you do. That will make a potential meeting or conversation worth their time. If you’re connecting two people who should meet each other, author Michelle Tillis Lederman suggests a short introduction that clearly states how both people will benefit from knowing each other.
Use the format that works best for you. Some people love in-person networking events or industry conferences. Others prefer the more laid-back format of one-on-one virtual meetups. Others thrive on using social media to make and maintain a network. Without putting all your eggs in one basket, focus your energy on the networking format that’s most comfortable and effective for you.
Show appreciation to those who help you. Consultant Scott Edinger notes that even a simple “thank you” can go a long way when clients or individuals in your network offer assistance. This appreciation shows that you value their help and trust their expertise – and increases the chances they will offer assistance in the future.
Take a pragmatic approach. Both Powell and Mason indicate that maintaining a referral network takes time and effort. For new connections, Mason recommends trying to meet someone new each week, albeit briefly. For existing connections, Powell suggests regular phone calls or emails, along with the occasional lunch invitation or thank-you gift.
Nurture the strongest connections. Powell cites the 80/20 rule: You’ll likely do 80% of your networking and referring with about 20% of your network. Whether you do it formally or informally, keep track of which connections have been the most beneficial and think of additional ways to provide value for them.
At Healthcare IT Leaders, we’ve built our firm on word-of-mouth referrals from our loyal consultants and clients. To celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2021, we’re giving a Tesla Model 3 to the individual who makes the most qualified referrals for the remainder of the year. Make a referral today and tell us about a consultant, client, project or job that we should know about.